News and Events
Coordinator: Mark Perry
*What brought you to NOVA?
I started out at Roosevelt High School. My grades were good but I didn’t feel that their art programs were satisfactory and wasn’t interested in other activities there. I had a friend who went to NOVA and when he told me how much autonomy students were given there, I was pretty much sold.
*How did Nova prepare you for the next part of your journey?
It seemed like such a sweet deal at NOVA, I couldn’t believe people weren’t all rushing to transfer there. It’s not typical that teenagers are given so much control over their education. I got to decide when and where and how I would I would learn. I could be as lazy as I wanted to be or I could push myself to achieve more. Either way, I was responsible for my personal outcome, no one else. That’s the way the real world is. You’re responsible for you.
*What did you do you did after graduation?
I got in to three different art colleges. One was too expensive. The other two we could afford, so my choice came down to moving to Oakland, CA or London, UK. I guess you could say it was pretty impulsive, but I moved to London and never regretted it for a second.
I did my degree in Design for Communication (fancy word for Graphic Design). In the end however, I decided I didn’t really have a passion for it. If I could go back, knowing what I know now, I would have gone with what I was actually good at (Illustration) and not what I thought would make me more money.
After college I worked in a bar for a while and eventually came across a job as a teaching assistant at a local high school. I worked in the art department assisting students with special educational needs. Over there special education is what they call ‘inclusive,’ so there are no special separate rooms for people with disabilities. Everyone attends the same classes as everyone else; some students just get extra attention from someone like me. That experience is what got me on the path to where I am now.
*What are you currently involved with?
Now I live in San Francisco and run an art studio for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We’re part of a larger nonprofit lifelong learning center called The Arc San Francisco. It’s very rewarding work but of course some days are a challenge. I guess that’s what keeps me interested. I’m happy because I get to do what comes natural to me with the art but I also get to go home and feel like I’ve done something good for the world.
*What are your plans for the future?
I might like to move to a new city (or maybe back to Seattle) and open my own art studio doing the same thing I do here. Really I just try to always keep doing what makes me happy and I’m good with that.
*If any, what advice do you have for Nova students, or prospective students?
Enjoy your freedom but don’t pretend to know everything. Be open and kind and always listen. It’s easy to dismiss someone for being young and naïve or old and out of touch, but wisdom doesn’t know age or experience. You can learn something from everyone.
Career wise, find out what you’re good at and do that with everything you’ve got.
See more of Alex Williams' work & studio here:
Interview by Benjamin Verdoes Nova High School 2014
Nova High School is known for its immersion in the arts. In 2012, Nova students started a music program called Beats! Committee. The program gives students tools to compose digital music with Ableton software. Beats! students recently hosted their second annual fund-raising show at Seattle's all-ages venue Vera Project. Several Nova students were able to perform alongside professional beat-makers and hip-hop artists.
Before the show, founding Beats! member and Nova student, Omar Tellez (aka Tellez Tha Formula) had an opportunity to visit KUBE 93.3 to announce the show live on the radio. Beats! Committee also received several previews in local newspapers.
At Nova, students are able to pursue their interests and work toward developing their talents.
Here is a sample beat created by Beats! student Nash:
Read more about the committee and the show below:
Advisor/Coordinator: Mark Perry
What was Nova like for you? What were the positive things about Nova?
It was accepting; it was challenging; it was invigorating; it was flexible; it was loving; it was a catapult.
What do you mean “a catapult?”
When I came to Nova I wasn’t planning on finishing high school. I had dropped out, and I didn’t know how I was going to finish high school because I didn’t know how I was going to fit into the normal schooling system. It wasn’t that I wasn’t capable or good at school, but there were a bunch of different things going on, part emotional and home life, but also I knew what I wanted to do and I wasn’t interested in the other things. I was pretty stubborn about that. So Nova gave me the opportunity to still be a teenager, still be a kid, and have a high school experience, but one that I could have more ownership over and more room to explore the things I felt passionate about.
What resources were important or crucial for you?
The biggest resources were human connections. I wasn’t especially tied into the student body because I was a transfer student, but I had great educational relationships with my teachers, who really made me think and made me really interested and involved in what I was learning. That sort of guided but self-directed learning really proved to be helpful in college and later in life in general, especially what I do now.
Where did you end up going to college?
I went to Bennington College in Vermont. It’s a very small private school for the arts. I went for photography and philosophy.
It was a good jump from Nova?
Yes, it was the only school I applied to because it was a bigger version of Nova.
How did you integrate your love for photography with your studies at Nova?
I was very involved with photography when I came to the school. Nova gave me a chance to earn credit for my work outside of school, including a program I did in New York. I also spent a lot of self-directed time at The Photographic Center Northwest.
What are doing currently?
I shoot editorial for an independent business in Seattle, which is mainly fashion oriented. I also freelance. I shoot music and album covers. I do portraiture and events. I also do more conceptual and art-based work.
Do you have a website?
What advice do you have for current Nova students?
It’s hard to be in high school; it’s hard to be a teenager. But, you’re only a teenager once and it will go by pretty quickly, so try to get the most you can out of life and the resources at Nova. Have fun and find what you like and do that really hardcore.
What advice do you have for someone considering coming to Nova?
I think the most important thing about coming to Nova is being self-directed. If you can have any ounce of self-direction or discipline, Nova will catapult you. It will give you the freedom to do some really special things as a high school student. Freedom is awesome, but it takes a lot of responsibility. Come and talk to people and see if you make a connection with students or teachers. Find someone to connect to who help you with your studies.
What was different about your teachers at Nova?
Mark Perry was my advisor. He was the first adult I felt like I could say anything to. I could tell him honestly what was going on with me. I could talk about my home life and my studies. He was so compassionate and nonjudgmental. He really believed in me. The other thing is, I still remember taking Barbara’s Senior Lit class. There were guidelines, but there weren’t rules. I had a class where people really took things seriously. We had a level of discussion that was not typical of high school. We read difficult and complex texts, not so much the language, but the subject matter. We read all these books and had open conversations about what they were about. I remember walking out of class and being so excited about what we had talked about and what we were reading that I buzzed all the way home. I walked all the way home buzzing [makes buzzing sound].
Interview by Benjamin Verdoes, 2014
Photo courtesy of Megumi Shauna Arai
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